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Narcissus Enfleurage, Part II

Narcissus Enfleurage
Yipee! Lucky for me, despite the low numbers of blooming narcissus bulbs in my garden this year, the resultant enfleurage from my meagre one-charge-batch is highly fragrant and gorgeous!
If you can imagine me doing a happy dance, this is exactly my reaction to this surprising success. It takes a long time to grow, pick and enfleurage the flowers. And then the fat needs to be soaked in alcohol and left to macerate for several weeks. Today I've finally strained it. The result is a filtered extrait (the term for the enfleurage fragrant tincture, before removal of the alcohol to produce an absolute - a stage I decided to forego due to my low yield and technical limitation), which I promptly added to Narkiss perfume, adding another layer of authentic narcissus to the absolute from Narcisse de Montainges from France that is already in there.

Enfleurage Experiments

Enfleurage Fat
This spring, I have been experimenting with vegan enfleurage (the traditional enfleurage uses animal fats - ideally a combination of lard and tallow; which as a vegetarian I'm not interested in using). I tried different vegan fats (oils that are solid at room temperature), which I slabbed on a stainless steel pan with a lid (the kind you'd use, steeped in a hot batch, in catering carts to keep the food warm). I smeared both the lid and the tray with fat, so that the flowers get encapsulated by the scent-absorbging fats, an you can truly capture some of the "headspace" of the perfume. After all, this is what enfleurage is all about!

I tried different fats - such as palm, shea butter, coconut oil, etc. with varying results and also different challenges in the process, which I feel compelled to share here in case you want to experiment with your own enfleurage with your flowers.

I tried many different flowers - whatever was in bloom. My first fantasy was to use the Calicotome villosa flowers (they look very similar to gorse flowers), but they bloomed very early and I didn't have my tray then yet. Then I was hoping to get the broom; but I could not figure out yet what is the best time of the day to pick them. This was a crucial detail, because I don't have them growing close by, and didn't want them to spoil on the way to the tray. A technical difficulty that I could not anticipate was that the fats melt very fast if you take the tray out with you to harvest. And then you end up with some serious problems (such as the fats on the lid drip off to the bottom).  And that is defeating the whole purpose...
First Enfleurage Experiment
So, in the end, I created mixed trays of flowers, whatever I had on hand that was blooming, and paid close attention to the time of the day when it's best to capture them. Some are best early in the morning (not too many, actually), others you'll need to wait till the sun is shining (late morning). The Trachelospermum jasminoides flowers give their very best incensed-ambery-jasmine in the afternoon. And some, like the gardenias and Brunflesia, truly are best at night. The sweetpeas and Buddleijas davidii are most forgiving. But all are also favoured by tiny, minuscule bugs, which I found some ways to reduce, but very few ways to completely avoid completely.

First Enfleurage Experiment

After changing the flowers for several batches, of the course of a week or more I got what is technically called "Pommade". This is the fats saturated with the flowers' perfume. But to get to this phase you got to be utterly careful not to let the flowers overstay their welcome. You must change them every two days. Also, you must pay close attention to not allow any mould to form. The problem is, there is not a lot of ways to know when the mould will form - until it actually started. The literature I found about enfleurage talks about only week-long processing of the flowers, changing them every two days. But the fats did not have that much fragrance after a week. Also, mould could form within that week, depending not he amount of moisture in the atmosphere - and in the flowers.

Pommade from Enfleruage

The pommade is then washed with alcohol, or to be more exact: it is melted over low heat bain-marie with alcohol. Allowed to macerate for additional ten weeks. Then chilled and filtered. What you see in the image below is the warmed fats in the alcohol (on the left) and the spent flowers (the beaker on the right). The spent flowers can be composted, or extracted with absolute to create an "absolute from chassis".
Making Extrait from Enfleurage

The resulting alcohol  is really a perfume - alcohol with the plants essences in them. This is what you'll find in many old formula book labeled as "extrait of tuberose", "extrait of jasmine", and so on and so forth. This is not the complete process, but this is probably where a home enfleurageur should stop, to avoid unnecessary loss of material. And especially, if you're intending to use this in alcoholic perfumes anyway. Serious (read: commercial) enfleurage manufacturers would go on to evaporate the alcohol (preferably with a still, and in such way that they can re-use it), and will be left with an uber concentrated absolute from enfleurage.




Tarnished Silver

Naming has the power of brining our attention to the subtle qualities of a scent. In Tarnished Silver, botanical extract expert Dabney Rose brings forth the metallic qualities of violet. I've been fortunate to experience several of Dabney Rose's innovative botanical enfleurage of hyacinth, which she added to my order of hydrosols, and have also traded a copy of my book for her gorgeous pommades of tuberose breathtaking butterfly ginger which I have recently reviewed here. Tarnished Silver is the first perfume blend I'm experiencing from this talented lady. This time it arrived in my mailbox completely unannounced (though most welcome!) alongside a beautifully assembled collection of handicapped Kyphi incense. They all arrived right before I left for my trip, and I left them behind, knowing I will not have the appropriate conditions for incense burning on my travels.

Tarnished Silver, however, was tucked in my carry-on and I'm enjoying it immensely. I am now riding the train to the north part of Israel - the Western Galilee. Stretches of fields, meadows, orchards, and factories pass by the window, and glimpses of the Mediterranean sea delight the spirit as the train gently rocks and hums its way to our destination. There is wi-fi here (which I won't easily come by when I reach my home village, and off-the-grid hippie haven). So here I am again with a dab of Tarnished Silver on each wrist, enjoying the scenery.

It opens with a melancholy tinge of violets: at once sweet yet also bitter. Sharply green yet soft and diffused, almost powdery. It's amazing that fresh violets can be captured so beautifully with this vegan enfleurage - truly a labour of love. To the sweet ionone facets are added some other notes though subtle: honey, perhaps a tad of hay or flouve as well or something else that gives it a bitter sweet coumarin undertone. A touch of rose and oaks give it a very vintage feel, like Chypre from the turn of the 20th Century.


Tuberose Pommade and a Flower Meditation



The other enfleurage pommade I ordered from Dabney Rose was a tuberose one. If you've smelled fresh-cut tuberose before, you'll be appreciate the glorious beauty of the living flower that has been captured in the vegetable oil base of this pommade. You can read more about the process and what pommade means in my post about the equally stunning Butterfly Ginger pommade.

Capturing a living flower's true scent is an enormously challenging feat. Dabney Rose does an incredible labour of love growing her own plants in a glass hothouse and her own little garden, and she must be tending to each blossom and petal with much care while growing them, and of course handpicking and placing them in the coconut-base vegetable alternative to enfleurage.

The Tuberose Pommade brings to mind spring eternal when the entire room is intoxicated from a single cut stem. It transports you to a hot summer night on the beach, adorned with a lei of tuberoses and gardenias. I am yet to experience this in real life, but my imagination is quite satisfying and a dab of real tuberose is enough to make it feel real. All is needed is to close one's eyes and surrender your senses to this beauty, for it is fleeting.

The pommade is not a solid perfume, but a pure, single note extraction - a rather antique method, like the one invented in the city of Grasse. It does not last long, which demands you do pay attention to it while it lasts. With such rare beauty, a floral meditation is in order, once you apply this white unguent to pulse points or even finger tips. Take a few moments off your stressful day to appreciate this beauty. Or better yet - start your day that way. Dedicating the beginning of your day to gratitude and appreciation is the best way to start the day. Invite life's blessings and pause to fully appreciate it, and more will come your way.
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